June 4, 2013 in Games, Ideas, Research

Embodied Learning: Research & Thoughts

Chemistry in the SMALLab. Credit: Ken Howie Photography> In this post I'll go over two applications of embodied learning. First is SMALLab, a learning environment using motion-capture technology and large scale projections to track movements in space, and second is Science Choreography, a project through Wesleyan University and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange that combines art, science, and kinesthetic learning to teach science topics. But before getting into all of that, a look at what embodied learning actually means: Definition The SMALLab website defines embodied learning as "a field that blends the learning sciences and human computer interaction". Science Choreography deals more with the direct translation of a process or concept into movement. In this video, Liz Lerman describes, "when you embody a process you start to realize what you don't understand, and you begin to ask questions because you want to get the movements right." In embodied learning, physical movement is the medium through which we internalize knowledge. A few learning theories relevant to embodied learning are embodied cognition, differentiated instruction, and social constructivism. Some quick-ish definitions before getting into the examples: Embodied Cognition is the argument that all aspects of cognition are determined by the body. This includes higher level cognition like reasoning, judgement, and categorization. Differentiated instruction refers to a teaching philosophy contrary to the "one size fits all" model that many schools go by today. Students are provided avenues for learning and assessment that are effective for all students, regardless of ability.

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May 21, 2013 in Games, Research

Reinventing Board Games

Dominic Crapuchettes (founder of North Star Games) talks about the renaissance of modern board games. A few main points:

Tablets are making traditional board games obsolete.

Similar to books vs. ebooks: the production process is very expensive compared to buying a game from the App Store, and the convenience of a tablet is certainly desirable.

Game Designers are no longer anonymous.

You won’t see the name of the Monopoly’s or Scrabble’s designer on the box; prior to modern board games, designers were completely anonymous. In this case, designers receive no upside from sales even if the brand is massively successful, and receive no recognition for their work.

In modern board games, designers have become more like authors and artists. The trend started in Germany with the award Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year). The prize is always awarded to the designer not the publisher, and he/she will receive royalties according to the success of the game. Designers now take on the role of entrepreneur with intense passions for their craft and the opportunity to make a living from it.

The craft itself has improved.

Modern board games get rid of the mechanics that are not fun, though common in older games like Monopoly:

  • Waiting for your turn.
  • Not allowed to play, i.e. losing and being knocked out of the game.
  • Unpredictable play times (will it take 1hr or 24hrs?).

Finally, the space is crowded. New game designers now see themselves as artists, they find a concept and use the craft of board game design to involve people in that concept.

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April 7, 2013 in Pittsburgh

Start your own Show-n-Tell

Every first Friday at Catapult, we do an informal Show-n-Tell where four people or organizations give a 10ish minute presentation about what they do. Sort of like lightning TED talks, it’s a wonderful way to find out about smaller, under-the-radar projects in your community or to […]

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April 2, 2013 in Games

Article: Gamification is Bullshit by Ian Bogost

In a nutshell: …gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway. – Ian Bogost In defense of gamification, from the […]

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March 25, 2013 in Games, Ideas, Projects

Card Sorting to Brain-cleansing Games

About Card Sorting Card sorting is an exercise in user experience design where a group of users sort cards with various words on them into categories. It is often used to determine a website map or to test the language of product, so the cards' words would be things like "Pricing", "Testimonials", or "Tour". About Brain-cleansing I recently did something like card sorting with a client, but less structured. The terms on my cards were very random, anywhere from "Beyonce" to "corn" to "Trust". Each of us in the meeting grabbed a handful of cards and spent a few minutes organizing them in any way that made sense. This gave me the idea to design "Brain-cleansing" games (horrible name, I know). They would be simple exercises that help you break down creative barriers and allow thoughts to flow more freely - a solution for writers block or if you are stuck on a bug in your code. Clear your mind with one or two rounds then return to your work. Here is the first I've come up with (basically lnfnmo): Brain Cleanse game #1: Left & Right Gather/prepare these things: A deck of 20 cards (download some). I taped mine to playing cards for easier handling. Some sort of divider, like a chopstick or a pencil. A timer if playing alone (optional). Choose two cards without looking at them. Turn both over and place one on the left side of the divider and one on the right. Leave a few card lengths between the card and the divider. Like this:

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March 15, 2013 in Research

Themes from DML 2013

Had a great weekend at DML 2013: met a ton of excellent people, heard excellent talks, and had some excellent dinners in Chi City. A few resonant themes and takeaways: Civics are not in crisis, agency is. It seems like civics are the problem because of widely popularized (and hilarious) media showing ignorance (Jaywalking). The stats actually haven't changed, our expectations have. College degrees are much more prevalent now so we are dealing with a larger pool of people. The problem lies in the fact that this demographic feels that they have no influence in the antiquated legislative system (Ethan Zuckerman). Chicago is cool. While this wasn't explicitly stated at the conference, it's certainly true. What a great city, I hope to go back in the near future and have more time to explore. Green river for St. Patrick's Day! Students are expected to be better than perfect. The average high school GPA of incoming freshman at UC Irvine is 4.1/4.0 (Cathy Davidson). Badges...hmmm. Badges are all the rage right now, but they aren't necessarily the answer. The danger in badges is that learners will be motivated because of the badge, rather than what they are learning (Barry Joseph, Mitch Resnick).

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March 11, 2013 in Design

Hippo illustration

I needed to make an anthropomorphic/mentor-like figure for a project and did some experimenting with a hippo. Pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

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March 5, 2013 in Design, Games, Research

DML Conference 2013

In a couple of weeks (March 14-16) I'll be heading to Chicago for the annual Digital Media and Learning Conference organized by the DML Research Hub. The theme this year is "Democratic Futures: Mobilizing Voices, and Remixing Youth Participation". There has been a longstanding narrative of youth political apathy and disengagement from democratic life. As the currents of social, political, financial, and global change intensify, what is the future of participatory democracy, youth activism, and civic and political education? How are the practices and forms of participatory democracy evolving in the age of social, digital, and mobile media? So many good talks, and I think a few of my favorites overlap unfortunately. Anyhow, here are some I'm especially looking forward to: ChicagoQuest Curriculum Design Jam "In this workshop, players will be taught the different phases of our curriculum design process. They will form small teams to compete against other teams in a guided challenge to design at each of the “levels” of the curriculum design process, both experiencing and designing CQ-style game-like learning." Seems that I've been mentioning the Quest Schools in every post at this point... Games, Learning and the Future of Assessment "The development of game-based assessments to support the learning of domain-based knowledge and skills." Very excited for this one.

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February 9, 2013 in Tutorials+Tips

Some advice for freelancers

I've been freelancing full time for about 6 months now and finally feel that I've streamlined my process. I'd like to share a few things that made a huge difference for me: Find a co-working space. I rent a desk at CatapultPGH, and have no idea what I would do without it. The community is invaluable, and the coffee fantastic. It's amazing how your self respect and productivity sky rocket when you stop working in your PJs. Read more at the co-working wiki, and if you can't find a space in your community, start one. Take an improv class. This is easily the best decision I've ever made. Confidence and decisiveness are a huge part of freelancing, and I promise improv will provide you those skills and many more.

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January 28, 2013 in Games, Projects

Global Game Jam 2013

I participated in the Pittsburgh Global Game jam this past weekend. In a sentence, the GGJ is a worldwide event where teams make a game in under 48 hours according to a predetermined theme – read more here. I was the 2D artist on a team with two […]

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January 1, 2013 in Design, Tutorials+Tips

The F & Z Layouts in Web Design

On the F layout: The F-Layout relies upon various eyetracking studies for it’s foundational concept. These scientific studies show that web surfers read the screen in an “F” pattern – seeing the top, upper left corner and left sides of the screen most… only occasionally taking glances […]

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December 19, 2012 in Games, Research

Notes on the Principles of Game-like Learning

I just watched a great webinar at Connected Learning with Katie Salen who is a co-author of Rules of Play, and director of the Institute of Play. Below is a recording followed by some notes. Katie Salen: Making Learning Irresistible: 6 Principles of Game-like Learning Key Design Principles How do we to take a theory and translate it into an actionable principle? Creating a need to know: Games drop players into problem spaces that a player is willing to confront and solve. Curriculum design should revolve around creating a need to know, not about what to know. Games as spaces of possibility: Teachers create a space of possibility for students or players to tinker, explore, and test assumptions. Start with content to teach and present it in a space for learners to experiment. Get students comfortable with failing by structuring coursework around iterations.

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